Skip to main content

Some questions for today's Atlantic Yards oversight hearing

Here's a round-up of some questions that might be addressed at the State Senate oversight hearing today, notably by representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Most but not all have appeared previously on this blog.

(Forest City Ratner seems unlikely to testify, but State Senator Bill Perkins, contradicting a statement by the developer's rep to Daily News columnist Errol Louis, said FCR was invited. The hearing at Pratt Institute is supposed to start at 1 pm, but it's always good to get there early.) 

Costs and timetable

Why is the cost of the project and arena a secret? And why did Bruce Ratner disclose the cost to the Times? Where's the new timetable and budget? How long would the arena take to build? Could it really open in 2011?

Why did the State Funding Agreement provide no timetable for Phase 2? Why did the City Funding Agreement impose no penalties for a Phase 1 some 44% smaller than approved?

Does the ESDC really believe the project could be completed in the announced ten-year timeframe? Would groundbreaking be this year or next year? Was the ESDC candid or deceptive about the timetable to the IRS?

Is there an interim plan for the site, should nothing get built over most of it?

Will a new Modified General Project Plan be issued and when? If so, when would a public hearing be held? Would changes in the project timetable necessitate a revision of the environmental impact statement? Would they necessitate a new vote by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB)? 

Analysis of benefits?

What is the financial accountability for the project? How are the government agencies considering renegotiating the deal? Is there any new analysis of expected benefits? Will there ever be a cost-benefit analysis?

What does the Independent Budget Office (IBO)  think, given that tax revenues from the arena are surely reduced from 2005, when the arena cost-benefit analysis showed a break-even proposition? (The IBO, which did not attempt a cost-benefit analysis for the project as a whole, will testify at the hearing.)

The architect's role

Is Frank Gehry still on the project? What's Ellerbe Becket's role? How does Gehry's diminished role affect naming rights and expected revenue?

Is Laurie Olin still on the project? Is another landscape architect?

The MTA and the railyard

Will Forest City Ratner pay the MTA the promised $100 million once the ESDC begins to pursue eminent domain? Will the MTA be willing to compromise with Forest City's request to amend the agreement and pay only $20 million up front?

If Forest City Ratner does not create the upgraded railyard it intended, would that be violating the General Project Plan?

Who's in charge?

What did Chuck Ratner, CEO of parent Forest City Enterprises, mean when he said two years ago --before the economic downturn--that "we still need more" subsidies? Was he talking about the city, the state, or the MTA--or all three?

Did the ESDC do any independent evaluation of Forest City Ratner's claim that it had stalled work because of litigation?

Why did the ESDC let the city Department of Transportation make a deal regarding reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue Bridge at a different timetable than announced?


What exactly does volunteer Susan Rahm do on the project?

Did the promised utility work on Pacific Street ever occur? Why did the utility work schedule change? Why is Forest City Ratner in complete charge of Construction Updates?

Should the ESDC have created a more honest property ownership map? Will all properties be taken by eminent domain at the same time? Including Site 5?

Affordable housing

Was there ever enough bond capacity to support the promised AY affordable housing over ten years? 

What's the minimum the developer could build? Why is ACORN muzzled?

Questions of blight

Should minor cracks in the sidewalk be considered blight? What about lots to 60 percent or less of their allowable Floor Area Ratio (FAR) under current zoning?

Was the fabric of the community "shot to hell"

Has the developer exacerbated blight via demolitions?

Project rationale

Can anyone at the ESDC claim, as did the agency's consultant AKRF in the environmental impact statement:
The project site is not anticipated to experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project by 2016 due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…